The Little Superstars!

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Ankit Modi, IIT Kanpur

“Superstar” – The word seems to have lost its essence due to a very common and random use of it these days. This tag has become too easy to acquire; people seem to perceive anybody anywhere anytime as a superstar. The tag of being a superstar is a huge one and it has to be earned (the hard way, off-course).

So, who really is a Superstar? For me, anybody who is passionate, down to earth, has a positive attitude, believes in making people smile and thinks about the society before himself, is a superstar. In that sense, people like Kiran Bedi, Anna Hazare, Arvind Kejrival etc., who have risen above narrow-mindedness and are working to ease people’s lives have earned the right to be proclaimed as superstars.

Last week while conducting interviews to select new fellows for Avanti Fellows (an organization aimed at bridging the education divide by providing free coaching & mentoring to talented, but poor students), I came across two little superstars. I call them ‘little’ as I saw the potential in them to become our future superstars. Such was their honesty, simplicity, ethics and desire to change the surroundings that one could not stop himself from pondering over the fire they were carrying within. Their eyes had the spark of a budding superstar. It was not as if they looked different or talked differently, but just the thought processes running in their mind, the anger of being unable to get the right opportunities, the attitude to challenge themselves to rise above all adversities made them look special.

The first guy named Raghav* was an extremely bright student with aims of studying at an IIT, loved to read and write about philosophy, had won many awards in debates and wanted to become the next APJ Abdul Kalam. His father had a hand-to-mouth income, no savings and a house with two rooms (in not a good condition at all). Clearly, the father could hardly afford higher studies of his children.

But, the boy has a dream, a dream he is chasing, chasing on a bicycle when his counterparts have Ferraris (Avanti Fellows is all about adding engines to these bicycles). But he hasn’t given up. He says “Bhaiya, I will work hard to crack JEE, then I would publish some research papers at an IIT which would lead me to work for ISRO, and ultimately I would land up researching at NASA.” The kid might not know the magnitude of his words. We may say he doesn’t know what he is talking about, but it is this purity and beauty of his dreams that strike you on meeting him. Haven’t the greatest feats been achieved by men who didn’t know ”what couldn’t be done”?
Raghav’s favorite book is Wings of Fire by Mr. Kalam, he says that he read somewhere that Mr. Kalam believed that he didn’t have very good writing skills (obviously, by Mr. Kalam’s standards). So, Mr. Kalam couldn’t give the students as much as he wanted to give them through his biography. Raghav doesn’t want to face the same problem with his future biography, so he writes. You can call it childish, over-confidence or whatever you want, but the point is that the guy is not leaving a single stone unturned in making his dreams come alive.

The second guy I met was Aditya*. He too, was a talented guy deprived of opportunities, living in a one bedroom flat (we may call it bedroom, study-room, kitchen or whatever, but that was all the home had), studying under the lamp and all the other features that fellows at Avanti carry with themselves, but the one thing that strikes about him is his ethics. When asked what he would like to tell the interviewers about his selection, the boy said “Aapko agar lagta hai humse zyada talented aur needy koi aur hai to use le lijiye, mai aur mehnat kar ke nikal hi lunga JEE” . According to his estimation, a student needs to study approximately 10 hours a day to crack JEE, but he would need to study for 12 hours as his English is weak and good coaching is available in English only. He is ready to put that extra effort, without complaining about the unfairness bestowed upon him. This honesty, this truthfulness, is what I would like to see in my superstar.

We all have Raghav’s attitude and Aditya’s ethics, don’t we? But somewhere in the midst of our lightning-fast lives, these super-starry qualities had been buried below the daily life politics, jealousy and cunningness. We have forgotten the unadulterated “16 year-old us” and have indulged ourselves in running madly to win a rat-race (neglecting the famous saying that we would still remain a mere rat). In a way, we are murdering the superstars inside us. And when we see these budding superstars, we are reminded of the fact that we too had (and still have) that spark of becoming a star, a superstar.

Nevertheless, keeping aside our stories, we can at least help in grooming these little pocket-powerhouses to unleash their true-self against this suppressing world, and let them do what would make them a real superstar, a classy superstar. And this is what Avanti Fellows has been doing since last few years i.e. mentoring and grooming “ignited minds” to become the future leaders of this country.

In the words of Vaibhav, another Avanti Fellow, “Mera koi idol nahi hai, sabki apni alag kahaani hai aur ek din mai bhi apni ek alag kahaani likhunga.”

* We’ve changed the names of the students to maintain privacy.

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